Help Save the Spruce Hill Site

Help Save Spruce Hill

The following is information from Highlands Sanctuary concerning the upcoming sale of the Spruce Hill site. With your help, this site can be saved.

We are writing to ask for your immediate creative and financial help to save Spruce Hill, a site that is not only a significant Ohio Hopewell earthworks site, but an extremely worthy natural area and a potential World Heritage site.

Three organizations: the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System, Wilderness East, and Ross County Parks are working together to BUY AND PROTECT two sites totaling over 500 acres containing a hilltop earthworks enclosure and over 325 acres of Appalachian forest, a task which requires raising a minimum of $1.2 million in just a few weeks.


~~YOU CAN HELP TWO WAYS~~l ONE IS TO HELP RAISE IMMEDIATE FUNDS. l TWO IS TO PASS THE WORD ON TO OTHERS. Please read on and we will share with you in detail as to what you can do.

Coming up for sale too fast for the National Park Service to Save
The Hopewell Culture National Historic Park based in Chillicothe, Ohio has been trying to incorporate Spruce Hill Earthworks into the park system ever since the 1980’s. This year a major advancement was made when the National Park Service, in an official submission to Congress, prioritized Spruce Hill as SECOND IN THE NATION among all sites they are requesting authority to eventually purchase. However, receiving actual funding for the Spruce Hill remains years away, requiring further Congressional action.

For the National Park Service, unfortunately, time has run out, and they have turned to the private sector for help. With Spruce Hill going to auction in a few weeks, no government agency can work fast enough to save the site from fragmentation and development. Without immediate help from public donors, the nationally significant site of Spruce Hill will be permanently lost to development like most of our nations Hopewell sites before it. Of the 41 identified Hopewell earthwork enclosures in the United States (the vast majority of them in southern Ohio), most have already been lost to development and agriculture.

What is so critical about saving the Spruce Hill Earthworks? The earthworks at Spruce Hill is nearly as intact today as it was when described by early archeologists, Squire and Davis, back in 1848. Of the 41 Hopewell major earthwork sites identified in their heartland of southern Ohio, most of them were geometrical earthworks built in the level floodplains of rivers and creeks. Spruce Hill belongs to a category of unusual sacred enclosures known as large hilltop “fortresses” (though likely ceremonial as opposed to defensive), of which less than a dozen have ever been found of similar scale. These large hilltop enclosures are non-geometrical in shape, their walls following the natural contours of specially chosen flat-topped hills having steep sides. Spruce Hill earthwork encloses an astonishing 150 acres, making the enclosure larger than even Fort Ancient — acreage which for the most part has never been investigated archeologically. The Spruce Hill site is unique in that it’s walls are made entirely of stone. The site is furthermore unique because of the clear evidence that high-temperature fires once burned along sections of its walls. Findings of molten slag and glazed bedrock have led to controversial debates as to whether metal-smelting furnaces might have operated on the property, either in historic or prehistoric times, debates which beg for additional research. Lastly, Spruce Hill lies in the same region as two lowland geometrical earthworks — Baum Earthworks and Seip Earthworks. Archeologists look to Spruce Hill to help answer questions as to whether the same social groups used all three sites, for what various purposes, and when. In summary, Spruce Hill is one of the nations most important intact archeological treasures that is currently unprotected, likely hiding the answers to many longstanding questions currently posed by Hopewell archeologists.


Why are Native American earthwork sites so important?
The indigenous history of the Eastern North American continent IS THE MOST UNDER-RATED AND UNDER-APPRECIATED story in American history. Archeology and anthropology in the western half of the United States have often taken precedence in the hearts and minds of the American public. In the East, Native American earthworks were often destroyed before our culture awakened to their importance. Literally, most of the East’s most potentially enduring historic monuments — sacred earthworks composed of earth and stone — were plowed into oblivion over a hundred years ago, and the process continues today. If those of us living in the East are ever to establish a deep sense of place and pride in our landscape, we would do well to commit to recovering and honoring the history of our land, and the long history of people who lived upon it.

The destiny of Spruce Hill — an intact Hopewell earthwork — poses a timely challenge to those of us living in the area once covered by the rich resources of the Eastern Deciduous Forest, home of many cultures over time. Spruce Hill’s future, whether a protected park or one more treasure buried beneath a new housing development, lies in our collective hands.

Who were the Ohio Hopewell People?
Between 2,200 and 1,500 years ago the Hopewell Cultural Expression flourished in the Eastern half of the North America continent, becoming one of the most influential cultures ever to exist in North American prehistory. Centered in what is now southern Ohio, they were epic travelers and consummate artists. Living in what is speculated to have been a singularly peaceful environment, they intentionally gathered materials for their crafts from far-flung places, apparently making epic journeys to the Great Lakes for copper, Florida for shells, the Carolinas for mica, and Yellowstone for obsidian. The Hopewell Cultures great ceremony centers at the present Ohio cities of Newark, Chillicothe, and Portsmouth once served as what could be perceived metaphorically as the Rome of their religious influence, the Alexandria of their relics and art. So stunning were their ornaments and religious relicts that their sacred art has cross-cultural impact, even today. Using the earth as a sacred canvas. The Hopewell Culture is best known for its sacred enclosures which were created by building earthen walls up to 12 feet high, which they used to outline immense symmetrical shapes, commonly squares, circles and octagons on the surface of the earth. The large enclosures often contained areas 40 -120 acres in size, which served as ceremonial, religious and burial grounds for Hopewell communities. Enclosures also often included earthen mounds, both within and outside the earthen walls, some of them containing burials with an astonishing wealth of grave art — hence the common name of “mound builders.” Despite the Hopewell Cultures occupation as primarily hunters and gatherers and their relatively low population density, Hopewell Culture earthworks are recognized as being among the largest prehistoric earthworks in the world. *Though convenient and widely used, the word Hopewell is an unfortunate term for a number of reasons. One, the name Hopewell is of English descent, coming from the name of a Euro-American family who owned a famous and extensively excavated earthworks site. Hopewell is therefore not the name these peoples called themselves, as that knowledge has been lost to time. Secondly, we don’t know if Hopewell peoples were one tribe, clan, or nation; or if they even all spoke the same language. We do know they shared some really impressive ceremonial expressions.”

Possible World Heritage Site
The Hopewell Culture National Historic Park and the Ohio Historical Society have submitted a nomination to receive World Heritage Site status for seven earthwork sites in their ownership: the Hopeton, Mound City, Hopewell, Highbank, and Seip Earthworks belonging under the umbrella of Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, and two Ohio Historical Society owned Memorials: Fort Ancient and Newark Earthworks. Spruce Hill was listed in the application as a desired national park acquisition and therefore as a potential World Heritage Site addition.

Spruce Hill as a Natural Area Located in the Arc of Appalachia, Ohio’s most intact bioregion
Spruce Hill lies in the five county area of southern Ohio called the Arc of Appalachia. This geographic region contains the densest canopied forests left in all of Ohio. The Arc’s forests, wetlands and prairies contain more zoological and botanical diversity than any other equal sized region in the state. As such, the region is a natural treasure for all populations centered around the greater Ohio Valley and beyond. This Arc is bordered by Scioto River on its east, the curve of the leading front of Appalachian foothills on its north and west, and the Ohio River on its south. Drawing an imaginary crescent (or arc) to encompass the area, the northern tip of the arc would begin in Chillicothe and roughly following the western curve of the Appalachian front down to the river town of Portsmouth. Encompassed in the embrace of the Arc are some of Ohio’s cleanest rivers and densest forests. Over 160,000 acres are owned and stewarded by non-profit and governmental agencies to date. Spruce Hill lies in the exceptionally scenic region river corridor known as Paint Valley on the northern curve of the Arc, ten miles west of Chillicothe. The hills steep bluffs border Paint Creek as it winds through the ancient river valley cut by the Teays, an immense north-flowing pre-glacial river that was once as large as the Mississippi. The parallel line of forested hills that border Paint Creek has long attracted interest as an area ripe for increased protection. The Paint Valley region is as rich in history as it is in natural history. Together with the nearby lower Scioto River, the region has more prehistoric mounds and geometric earthworks than any other place in Ohio or quite possibly even in the world. The larger dream for this region of the Arc is to see the beauty of the hill-rimmed corridor of Paint Creek protected with a quilt of preserves and parks owned and operated by a network of private and public entities. With this vision in mind, the 260-acre woodlands to be sold at auction, located just a half mile east of the 248-acre site of Spruce Hill earthworks, is also worthy of preservation. The property includes a lowland cove forest, with its perimeter boundaries stretching up to touch the nearby ridges. The lower elevations of this contiguous forest are rich in wildflowers, and scattered in the forest are some prize-winning ancient trees. To buy both of the properties at auction would be a great boon to anchoring the dream of a preserve system in Paint Valley. Because Spruce Hill has both historic and natural qualities, if insufficient money is raised for both properties, then the Spruce Hill site comes first. The flat-topped mesa of Spruce Hill is underlain by Berea sandstone, supporting a 150 acre meadow in which rare grassland bird species are currently nesting, including Henslow and Grasshopper sparrows. Of unique interest is a shallow natural woodland pond in the center of the mesa which is surrounded by mature pin oaks and burr oaks. The waters are active breeding grounds for large numbers of native amphibians, notably Jefferson salamanders and wood frogs. Below the sandstone cap are beds of shale, forming very steep hillsides. The soils on both Spruce Hill’s hillsides and the nearby cove forest are rich in moisture and natural seeps, and are covered with one of the densest wildflower displays in the region. In mid-April there is nearly a solid carpet of ramps, wild hyacinth, jack-in-the-pulpit, wood poppy, firepinks, rue anemone, dwarf larkspurs, and spring beauties, as well as three species of trilliums — large-flowered, drooping, and sessile. The mixed mesophytic forest, though relatively young in most parts, is densely canopied and is dominated by red maples, basswood, red and black oaks, sugar maples, tulip poplars, hickories, and white ash. Spruce Hill overlooks a known site on Paint Creek where an imperiled fish known as Ammocrypta pellucida has been found, commonly known Eastern Sand Darter, an interesting little fish that spends much of its life buried in the sand.

Long term management and ownership –linking nature and history preservation The long term plan is for the National Park Service to manage and own, through either donation or bargain sale (depending on funds raised), the Spruce Hill Earthworks site. The long-term plan for the Appalachian forests on the properties is for them to be co-owned by Ross County Park System and the private non-profit organization, The Arc of Appalachian Preserve System (Highlands Nature Sanctuary). Conservation easements and deed restrictions will be strategically put into place so that preservation into perpetuity can be assured. Wilderness East, a non-profit in southern Ohio which is separate 501(c)3 serving the volunteer and preservation needs in the Arc region, is the financial conduit for the project, temporarily holding the properties if necessary until all funding from permanent owners is in place.

Creative Solutions Needed: Large & Small Donors, Large Pledges and Short-term Loans To succeed at this endeavor in such a short period of time will take a wide collection of supporters: small and large donors, as well as organizations and people willing to make short-term low or zero percent interest loans. For instance, there is a good possibility of getting a grant up to $600,000 to put toward Spruce Hill, but the grant cycle will occur several months after the auction. We welcome a diversity of ideas on how individuals and groups can help be ready for auction day for this nationally significant site. Please contact us with your thoughts.

On behalf of the natural and cultural history native to Eastern North America, we are asking for YOUR help in raising funds for Spruce Hill, sharing creative ideas on promotion and financing, and passing the word to others in your personal networks. The fate of Spruce Hill lies in our hands.

To get to all of the below links, go to:
You are invited to attend:Site Tours for Prospective Donors Four Helpful Reference Maps How to Make a Tax Deductible DonationAnswers to Common Donor Questions

Who to Contact with Questions:
For general information and tour registration: Marcia Myers, Support Service Adm. [email protected] 937-365-1935
For information on creative solutions, private tours, stock-giving and large donations: Larry Henry & Nancy Stranahan, Co-Directors
Larry 937-365-1600 Nancy [email protected]
For more information on the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System
For more information on the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park 740-774-1126
For more information on Ross County Park System Gary Mercamp, Park Director, 740-773-8794

Thank you for the precious gift of your time. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted May 7, 2007
Topics: Archaeology

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